It’s a good thing this interview will be read and not heard, because after knocking back a few too many open bar whiskeys, our slurred questions to Austin-based rocker Emily Wolfe probably made us sound like a semi-conscious stroke victim.
Fortunately, Emily is a good sport, and we had a few minutes to chat before she jumped on-stage with her bandmates (keyboardist and singer Hannah Hagar, bassist Sam Pankey and drummer Jeffrey Olson) for a scorching CMJ day three set at The Delancey.
After releasing a full-length album (2012’s Director’s Cut) and two EPs in 2013 (Night & Day and Mechanical Hands), Emily has gone in a bit of a heavier direction for her excellent new batch of tunes. We talked about her recently released third EP (Roulette), road trip snacks, how Orange is the New Black helped inspire her latest single, “Swoon,” and much more.
Punchland: Okay, so to start off… How is New York different from Austin?
Emily: Everyone here seems to be super nice, but they’re also – from what I see – super determined on their goal, and just seem like, “Get outta my way!” whereas Austin’s, “Let’s smoke some weed, man.”
Punchland: What was your first moment when you arrived in New York and you got that, “Oh fuck, this is not Austin at all!”?
Emily: I think it was when we were stuck in this crazy traffic, and I was wondering, “What the fuck! How are we going to get outta this?” There seem to be no traffic laws at all. I’m not aggressive enough to drive in this city, so somebody else has to take over. I can’t do it. We all took shifts [driving up]. We drove from Austin, then we went to Little Rock, then Nashville. And from Nashville to here. We all took three hour shifts.
Punchland: What did you do on the drive up?
Emily: Oh, we played a game called Cards Against Humanity a lot.
Punchland: Yeah, that’s a great game.
Emily: And we played a lot of Game Boy Advance, and listened to a lot of White Denim, and slept a lot, ate a lot of chips.
Emily: Cool Ranch.
Punchland: Only Cool Ranch?
Emily: Or Nacho Cheese. So awesome.
Punchland: What else [other than White Denim] were you listening to on the ride up?
Emily: We listened to a lot of Jenny Lewis, The Bad Plus, which is a fantastic jazz trio, Dave King [from The Bad Plus] is the best drummer in the world. Also, we listened to this one record by a guy named Ted Ludwig, and we had never heard of him before, ever, but when we got to Little Rock we had to borrow a drum set from somebody, and it just so happened that our bass player knew some guy who knew Ted Ludwig, in Little Rock. He was just like, “Oh, I’ll lend you my drum kit.” So, we used his and he gave us [his CD], and we listened to that twice in a row.
Punchland: Cool. So, I want to go into your just released (on October 7) EP, Roulette. The songs are a bit heavier. What influenced you to go in that direction?
Emily: Well, I was listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Linda Ronstadt at the same time. And I wondered, “What if Linda Ronstadt joined Led Zeppelin?” So, I tried to emulate that idea. And also, I got two new guitar pedals. One of them is from New York. I had to order it special. It’s called Interstellar Overdrive. I forgot who made it, but…
Punchland: That’s a pretty… stellar name.
Emily: Ha, yeah. It’s so grungy, and I just had a lot of aggression; I really wanted to communicate that.
Punchland: Why were you feeling like that?
Emily: Actually, it’s kind of a weird situation… I had a blood clot in my brain, and I had to have brain surgery. The whole time I was just really anxious to get out of bed. I had this aggressive feeling where I needed to get out. Once I could get out of bed and write songs, I just went for it. It all came out that way. And we worked with Mike McCarthy on it, so it didn’t sound so Slipknot-y, it was more like Spoon. It’s been an interesting year.
Punchland: Ah, wow… [silence] Okay, sorry, I’ve had a few… a few…
Emily: Hahahaha, same. Don’t worry about it.
Emily’s Publicist: You’re on in about ten minutes.
Punchland: Oh shit!
Emily: Oh shit!
Punchland: So, I wanted to ask you about those lyrics in “Swoon.” [The more familiar you get, the more I’m willing to talk you up to any passerby or stranger where they stood] Are these lines [and the others] directed at someone?
Emily: Actually, no one knows this, but it was for my first girlfriend. It was about [her]. I also really wanted to write a song that has the same vibe as Orange is the New Black. Like, it’s super sexy, but kind of scandalous; it’s fun.
Punchland: Okay, so the lyrics, “If you were a fancy car I’d be looking to turn you on and get the most out of your engine that I could.”
Emily: Yeah, I wanted everything to sound super suggestive. Just so people would be like, “What’s that?” because it’s fun. Keep people on their toes. I’m not a hyper-sexual person at all. Oh, I mean I am but –
Punchland: Except in that song!
Emily: Yeah, so I thought, “Why not?” I don’t know if that makes sense at all. Sorry.
Punchland: I don’t know either, but we’ll fucking make it make sense!
Emily: It’s weird!
Punchland: Do you have anything you want to do in New York while you are here?
Emily: Yeah, we’re gonna –
Publicist: I think we should be going…
Emily: Oh shit!
Punchland: Oh shit!